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Attack of the Clones Leave 1 in 10 Out in the Cold

Lack of Captioned Movies Decried by National Coalition

WASHINGTON, DC, May 21, 2002.
The members of the Coalition for Movie Captioning (CMC) today expressed dismay over the failure of the motion picture industry to make the two biggest blockbusters of 2002 accessible to one in ten moviegoers - those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

"Spider-Man", which had the most successful movie premiere in history, has been in theaters three weeks with no open captioned prints available. No schedule has been announced for showing "Attack of the Clones" with open captions. The only way for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing can have access to these wildly successful films is through a technology called Rear Window Captioning'. Rear Window has been installed in a few theaters nationwide, allowing people to view otherwise invisible captions on special Plexiglas panels, but only seven of the nation's 6,100 screens showing "Attack of the Clones" are using this technology. Five screens in auditoriums outfitted with this system are showing "Spider-Man".

"This is very hard for us to swallow," said CMC Chair, Cheryl Heppner. "'Attack of the Clones' opened simultaneously in 74 countries, where those who use other languages can enjoy it while the majority of 28 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans cannot. Clearly it's time for the film industry to confront its bias against the growing number of people with hearing loss and recognize the additional business lost when they turn away this audience."

The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) reported that in 2001 there were 34,490 indoor screens, 7,500 of which were showing "Spider-Man" on its first weekend. CMC asserts that no more than 28 screens have ever shown blockbuster movies on any given day, and even those screens only show the movie with captions at limited times.

The Coalition's strongly-worded complaint comes at a time that these two movies are being seen by more people than any other two films in history. Over 28 million Americans - ten percent of the population - are deaf or hard of hearing, but their lack of access to films affects a much larger audience. Few people attend movies alone, so when a person with hearing loss cannot enjoy a movie, it means that family members, dates, and friends stay away as well.

Said Heppner, "There are thousands of children who desperately want to see these movies just like their friends, but because the studio has chosen not to offer captions, they are being deprived just because they can't hear."

The Coalition noted that it costs about $2,000 to produce a captioned print of a movie. Captioned showings of other blockbuster films have drawn large and enthusiastic audiences in theaters across the country.

"One would think that a movie that grossed over $116 million in its first four days would be able to afford a few thousand dollars to attract a potential audience of 28 million people," said John Flanders, CMC member and father of a nine-year-old son who is deaf. "I don't understand why Sony and Columbia won't make such a tiny effort to make these movies available for my family. It seems like there is a huge market that they are deliberately keeping away. It just doesn't make sense." About the Coalition for Movie Captioning (CMC): CMC is a coalition of national and local organizations and individuals, which advocates for the right of adults and children who are deaf, hard of hearing or late-deafened to have the same freedom as anyone else to attend any showing of any movie in any theater at any time. The member organizations are: Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AGBell), Consumer Action Network (CAN), Endependence Center of Northern Virginia (ECNV), League for the Hard of Hearing (LHH), National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH), and Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI).

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